Five-year-old Eva Xu’s mother called her daughter’s cancer diagnosis a ‘blessing in disguise’ for how it brought their family closer and exposed an inner strength they didn’t realize they had.
“Even though it’s a horrible thing, it all depends on how you look at it,” said Eva’s mother, Michelle Chen of Youngstown. “We’ve grown so much closer as a family. We learned not to complain and not to ask questions, but to be thankful she’s still alive.
“Eva will grow into such a strong person from this. My relationship with my husband has gotten stronger, as has our faith. Whatever we face together, we go through together.”
The Xu family’s life literally changed overnight in November 2016 while Chen and her husband, Barry Xu, were away on a business trip. Barry’s mother was watching their children, Eva, then 4, and Jaden, then 9.
“It was our second day away and she called us sounding worried,” Chen recalled. “Eva’s arm was hurting and she was crying in pain, so we rushed home that night.”
Eva couldn’t lift her arms more than a 90-degree angle, and later that night she developed a fever.
“As a mother I knew something wasn’t right,” Chen said.
Eva was then taken to the ER on the Akron Children’s Beeghly campus. When blood test results came back, she was rushed to the Akron campus where a team of doctors was awaiting their arrival around 3 a.m.
“They ran a bunch of tests and were right on point,” she said. “They knew exactly what they saw.”
Dr. John Fargo, pediatric oncologist, pulled Chen aside and told her they suspected leukemia, so they scheduled a biopsy.
“I didn’t have time to think or filter what I was being told,” Chen said. “You’re just so shocked, and I didn’t know how to cry at the time. I went back into Eva’s room and I hugged her so tight.”
In the morning a bone marrow test confirmed the diagnosis, and Eva immediately started chemotherapy treatment. She spent the next 8 days undergoing intense treatment, and by the 6th day test results showed she had a low-risk type of leukemia; one with a 95% success rate.
“It was a test of faith to see how strong we were,” Chen said. “I told my husband we are not giving up. I will lose everything to help my daughter. Her life here is not over. She’s only 4.”
While Eva is in the middle of a 2-year, 3-month treatment cycle, she’s officially in remission now. After 27 days the cancer cells were completely gone.
“We’ve seen miracles continuously throughout this process,” Chen said. “I see the love and the care the doctors and staff show not only to my child, but all the children in the unit. They treat them almost like one of their own.”